Our activities in the’ house’ were many and varied.
Often times we would beat drums, tell tales, sing and dance. We played all sort of games. We practised stilt dancing and often got seriously wounded whenever we had a fall. It was one of the rules of the cult, that no accidents must be reported at home, and we obeyed this rule to the letter.
All this season, parents hardly saw their children at home. Every minute away from school was spent in the ‘house’. Mothers and sisters in obedience to traditions did not break the rules and they kept away from the ‘house’. Often times the ‘house’ was a refuge to offending boys. Fathers too did not discourage us by breaking into the ‘house’. They left us alone. We used to have our outings and they were occasions of delight for the children in the he village. The elderly people, men and women, shares in the fun too. Sometimes our outings were in the day-time, sometimes at night.
When we had our day-time outings, we usually let out our masquerader. The masquerader was dressed in a funny way. We sewed up rags to make socks and gloves and made one of us wear it on his feet and hands. We made a long cap to cover the head up to the neck and bored holes to allow the eyes to peep out and the nose to breathe. From the neck to the knees was covered with a coat of drooping palm leaves. The masquerader always carried a long whip in one hand and the horn of a he-goat in the other hand. The whip was never used on anyone. We followed the masquerader about, beating the drums and singing songs. We danced and the masquerader danced too.We visited each house in the village. At each house, the masquerader spent some time blessing the people and dancing. Because the masquerader was believed to come from heaven, much value was set on the blessing of the masquerader. Therefore people, particularly the women, gave gift of money and food.
Whenever we had our night outing, we were less peaceful. Each of us carried a whip and used it. We used the whip on girls who had offended us in the day –time or any one against whom we had a grudge. We did not use our whips on grown-up men or anyone who was stronger than us. We covered ourselves with dry banana leaves and ran about the village shouting to mothers to keep a hold on their daughters and little children unless they would be trashed. We were daring and sometimes go to open doors and the back of houses looking for someone to flog. We would waylay the girls whom we knew were on their way home. We did not spare girls and little children who sat on the mats spread on the bare ground in front of their houses and in company of their mothers and aunts. On such occasions, the mothers and aunts would throw anything at us. Sometimes they throw wooden ladles and sometimes enamel plates if bricks and stone were not available.
The following morning the village would be littered with bits of dried banana leaves and dried banana stumps. Some fathers would burst furiously into the homes of some boys and speak sharply to their parents asking them to warn their sons against flogging unoffending girls. The boys would hide behind closed doors in the dark room listening.
Yet not all our night outings were as tough as this. We often staged stilt dancing during the full moon and everyone came out into the village square to see us perform. Men, women and girls will bring their mats and stools and join in singing. By any standard the music was melodious. I must confess that I don’t know how we did it since we had no special training, but we did produced melodious music. We thrilled the villagers and we were thrilled in return.
Next Script: Secret Cult Accident [script 4]…..
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